What's old is very much new again: Lao Jiu Lou, or Old Restaurant, is the latest bulwark of F&B emperor Seiji Fujimoto's dominion over Taman Desa, a ramen specialist that's poised to become Fujimoto's fourth suburban smash after Sanuki Udon, Taishu Yakiniku BBQ & Maruhi Sakaba Yakitori.
Lao Jiu Lou feels like a cool hybrid of an old-fashioned Japanese izakaya & a roadside Chinese hole-in-the-wall; it's atmospheric without overdoing it, evoking elements of Fujimoto's earlier eateries to stir up something with triumphantly singular charm. Bravo.
Fujimoto has repeatedly proven that he's more than savvy enough to know what works for Taman Desa; Lao Jiu Lou is well-thought-out in every respect. Its food falls unfailingly in the 'cheerfully cheap' classification, with RM9 tonkatsu ramen reigning on top of a one-page menu, costing a third of what patrons pay in malls.
Sure, this isn't as sumptuous as the best ramen out there, but it's satisfactory; the broth might not plumb rich, brute-force depths of pleasure, but it's sweet & tasty enough. Half a seasoned egg & a substantial slice of pork cha-siu round up the fundamentals for a freshly made, fuss-free lunch that's filling & fulfilling.
Pork gyoza clocks in at RM5 (a lamb variation will be available soon), pillowy-plump & juicy, with thick but soft skin, delicious when gobbled up piping-hot with ginger & vinegar.
Chinese components offered here include spiced roast pork (RM12), siu yok that's nothing if not absolutely addictive.
Moreish morsels of flavoursome succulence, with a golden-brown topside that's notable for its firmer-than-expected crunch. Served with melt-in-the-mouth potatoes & crisp carrots.
More meatiness: Cha-shu with cabbage (RM10). Best with rice or noodles.
Lao Jiu Lou's menu is less than descriptive: Some customers might dismiss what's simply typed out as "Steam Chicken," but they'll have missed a memorable mix of chicken leg with flat rice noodles & veggies on a platter of salty soup (RM10).
Similarly, the cryptically named 'Special Rice' is something less ordinary, a balanced meal with minced meat & waxed sausage. Not quite lap mei fan, but comfort food always makes for delightful discoveries nonetheless.
Alas, no sake is available, but Japanese Asahi & Chinese Tsingtao beers are.
Lao Jiu Lou is on the same street as Sanuki Udon & the two other neighbourhood newbies, The Soda Factory & Encore Patisserie. Look for the lanterns, since the permanent signboard isn't up so far. It opens all day long, 11:30am-9:30pm, but is closed on Mondays, like Fujimoto's other outlets.
Lao Jiu Lou 老酒楼 Old Restaurant
Also known as Bukit Desa Kopitiam
Also known as Bukit Desa Kopitiam
Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, Kuala Lumpur
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As a separate initiative, the latest edition of Eat Drink KL: 100 Favorites for January-March 2014 is now online, featuring 100 pretty nice eateries, including more than 20 new entries for this quarter. This eBook of restaurant recommendations is available for free, convenient reading on computers, tablets & smartphones at this link: http://eatdrinkkl.publ.com/Eat-Drink-KL-100-Favorites-Jan-March-2014 (This link expires March 31, 2014; see blog entries after that date for new link).